The Union Budget 2023-24, presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, has many positive announcements for agriculture in general. As far as the seed industry is concerned there are three items in the budget.
The project on ELS Cotton is a step in the right direction. We are currently producing only 25 per cent of our requirement of 2m bales and the balance is being imported. We believe that a large level of research investment is needed as a part of this project in which the private sector and Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) can work together and develop high-yielding hybrids with ELS and other fibre characteristics. Germplasm plays a key role in this and both sectors should come forward to share germplasm in this project. Farmers will grow more of ELS Cotton if they find it high yielding and profitable.
An allocation of Rs.2,200 crores towards supplying disease-free and high-quality horticultural planting material is a very good project. Fruits and vegetable demand is galloping and our supplies have to keep pace. Investments are required in enhancing research and high-quality production systems in both fruits and vegetables. Under this project, if specific crops are identified and targeted for improvement, the seed industry will be very happy to collaborate with ICAR and the government on this.
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ICAR- Indian Institute of Millets Research (IIMR) to be converted into a global millet hub is a very good idea. The private sector seed industry is already involved in a big way with millet breeding, seed production and promotion among farmers.
However, we are disappointed that there has been no announcement of support to enhance research in seeds and technology. We represented for restoration of the 200 per cent income tax deduction of the research expenditure of the seed industry. In order to face the challenges of climate change, natural resource depletion, newly emerging pests and diseases and stagnant yields research investments have to be stepped up by the private industry. We were expecting some incentivisation of such investments which did not happen.
The Union Budget 2023-24 announced the development of digital public infrastructure for delivering several services to the farmers, setting up of an Agriculture Accelerator Fund and a micro-irrigation project in Karnataka apart from targeting Rs.20 lakh crores of agri credit. These all are very positive measures to help agriculture and the farmers.
(Ram Kaundinya is the Director General, Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII). Views expressed in the article are author’s own.)